Tag Archives: patriotism

A Shining City, Not A Walled Fortress

Tonight is New Year’s Eve. The years do seem to go faster the older I get….(As my husband likes to say, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it turns.”)

This year’s New Year’s Resolution isn’t my usual list (lose weight, read more, be nicer to assholes). No, this year, my one and only resolution is to do everything in my (limited) power to make America America again.

This inspirational column by Ruth Marcus says it all, and says it far more eloquently and forcefully that I could. Marcus makes the essential point that one can loathe Donald Trump while loving America–that in fact, loving America pretty much requires detesting and resisting our accidental President.

I will share a couple of her observations, but I really, really hope you will click through and read the column in its entirety. (Maybe even print it out and frame it….)

Here, for me at least, is the comforting paradox of the age of Trump: I have never respected a president less, nor loved my country more.

This sentiment may startle. It may rankle, even. It comes in a week that witnessed the passage of the worst domestic policy legislation of my lifetime, followed by the now ritual but always repulsive lauding of President Trump. First by the Cabinet courtiers summoned for that purpose; next by Republican lawmakers willing to lay it on just as thick — even more nauseating, because they know better than the servile flattery of their words and because they occupy, theoretically anyway, a coequal branch.

After listing many of the ways this President has disgraced and embarrassed the nation, Marcus writes

Has there been a more embarrassing year for the United States? Thinking Americans cringe at what foreign countries and their leaders make of us and our president, with his reckless upending of international agreements, his bigoted and poorly executed travel ban, his unashamed ignorance, his reckless tweets, his endless susceptibility to flattery.

I particularly loved this observation:

Once we took for granted, as a given of American democracy, such fundamental values as freedom of the press, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary. Now we have a president who veers between failure to understand their importance and deliberate efforts to undermine them.

He is similarly heedless of the qualities that have always made America great, most notably its willingness not only to enshrine these values at home but also to play a leadership role in nurturing them abroad. Trump’s America is bristlingly insular and driven by zero-sum selfishness. Mine is welcoming, idealistic and generous — a shining city, not a walled fortress.

That last line particularly resonates with those of us who know our American history. Even the Deists among this nation’s founders joined their more “biblical” compatriots in believing that they were bequeathing to the world a “shining city on the hill,” a country that would be a beacon of liberty and justice.

Marcus concluded with a timely reminder of the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

Those of us on the more liberal side of the political spectrum have too often and too easily ceded the mantle of patriot to conservatives. Indeed, there can be an off-putting, chest-thumping aspect to traditional, bumper-sticker patriotism: “My country, right or wrong.” “America, love it or leave it.”

George Washington, in his farewell address, advised fellow citizens to “guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” It is hard not to recall that admonition when listening to Trump’s faux-patriotic posturing against kneeling NFL players and his demand that they show “total respect for our national anthem, for our flag, for our country.”

Real patriotism would be to recognize, as the Supreme Court did three decades ago in overturning a criminal conviction for burning the American flag, that “we do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.”

It has never been more important for real patriots to fight for the America of our moral aspirations. As Marcus says, “our fundamental fight is not against Trump. It is for America.”

Happy New Year.

Let’s get to work.

Patriotism On This Fourth of July

I’m patriotic. We even have a flagpole at my house. Right now, however–in recognition of the fact that an embarrassing buffoon occupies and degrades the Oval Office–it is flying the flag of the City of Indianapolis.

Where is my America on this 4th of July, 2017?

At the federal level, my America isn’t functioning–although it is “performing.”

The New Yorker looked for “American Dignity on the 4th of July,” and (surprise!) found the White House lacking. The article began with an excerpt from the famous speech in which Frederick Douglass pointed to unrealized American ideals, considered Obama’s efforts to move the nation closer to its aspirations, then segued to the current occupant of the White House, who neither knows nor cares about such abstractions:

Donald Trump, who, in fairness, has noted that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job,” represents an entirely different tradition. He has no interest in the wholeness of reality. He descends from the lineage of the Know-Nothings, the doomsayers and the fabulists, the nativists and the hucksters. The thematic shift from Obama to Trump has been from “lifting as we climb” to “raising the drawbridge and bolting the door.” Trump may operate a twenty-first-century Twitter machine, but he is still a frontier-era drummer peddling snake oil, juniper tar, and Dr. Tabler’s Buckeye Pile Cure for profit from the back of a dusty wagon.

The article described the President’s vulgar and sexist tweets about the hosts of “Morning Joe,” and other examples of his constant debasement of the Oval Office, before concluding–a bit more optimistically  than many of us feel right now–

Frederick Douglass ended his Independence Day jeremiad in Rochester with steadfast optimism (“I do not despair of this country”). Read his closing lines, and what despair you might feel when listening to a President who abets ignorance, isolation, and cynicism is eased, at least somewhat. The “mental darkness” of earlier times is done, Douglass reminded his audience. “Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe.” There is yet hope for the “great principles” of the Declaration of Independence and “the genius of American Institutions.” There was reason for optimism then, as there is now. Donald Trump is not forever. Sometimes it just seems that way.

To paraphrase a favorite line from my grandmother: From the New Yorker’s mouth to God’s ears.

Meanwhile, polls tell us that international opinion of the U.S. is at an all-time low, that allies and enemies alike are appalled and repulsed by–and very worried about– the unstable man to whom we have entrusted the nuclear codes. Even Canada is pulling away.

They weren’t quite fighting words, but the recent speech by Canada’s foreign minister in Parliament revealed the growing chasm between the country and its powerful neighbor.

The minister, Chrystia Freeland, told the House of Commons last week that as the United States, under its new administration, “has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership,” Canada, like other countries, must “set our own clear and sovereign course.”

The question worrying genuine patriots on this 4th of July is whether, given our weakened democratic norms and compromised electoral and governing institutions, we can mount a successful Resistance, and reclaim our America.

Will We the People rally to the symbolism of Independence Day and reaffirm the importance of the ideals on which our nation was founded? Will we demand fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law? Or will we simply normalize the dishonorable behavior of this administration and the corruption of a Congress that has elevated party above country, and cease to be the America so many of us have believed in?

I’d like to fly my flag again.

Happy Fourth of July.